USMCA Includes Significant Support for Biotech

October 12, 2018

The new trilateral trade agreement between the U.S., Mexico, and Canada (USCMA) takes a very forward-looking approach to support agricultural innovation. A new Agricultural Biotechnology Section confirms “the importance of encouraging agricultural innovation and facilitating trade in products of agricultural biotechnology, while fulfilling legitimate objectives, many are pointing to the biotechnology provisions as a key achievement for agriculture that will serve as a model for future trade agreements. “The USMCA sets important new standards for U.S. trade policy by ensuring trading partners establish policies that protect, respect, and advance the hard work and investment needed to bring new biotechnology innovations from the lab to the marketplace,” said the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO).

The agricultural biotechnology section aims to minimize trade disruptions. The agreement lays out a path for how to cut down approval time for new biotech traits and deal with imports of genetically modified crops that have not been approved, so-called “low-level presence occurrences.” The section also includes the establishment of a Working Group for Cooperation on Agricultural Biotechnology. The Working Group will provide a forum for Parties to exchange information, discuss any policy and trade-related matters, and work to advance trade policies and science and risk-based regulatory approaches with other countries and international organizations. These provisions are expected to facilitate innovation and ultimately approval of future technologies.

Looking forward to ratification, there is a possibility that government leaders will sign the Agreement at the upcoming G20 Summit in November. After signing, the government leaders will submit USMCA to the various legislatures for ratification. Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) determines how quickly a U.S. Congressional vote on the agreement could happen. At least 30 days prior to the introduction of implementing legislation, the President must submit to Congress the final agreement text and draft Statement of Administrative Action. 105 days after signing, the International Trade Commission submits a related report to Congress. These requirements assist Congress in its consideration of whether USMCA meets TPA’s negotiating objectives. U.S. lawmakers have also stated they will be looking at the impact of USCMA on trade liberalization as well as the domestic manufacturing sector.

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